Councils will soon be legally obliged to consider placing children with approved adopters who will foster the child before the adoption process is complete, David Cameron will announce today.
The ‘fostering to adopt’ move was first revealed in the national adoption action plan, published earlier this year, but the government will now legislate to make fostering by potential adopters standard practice in many cases.
Ministers say this will remove “groundless doubts” about whether ‘fostering for adoption’ is legal and good practice.
The plans are not intended to pre-empt the court’s decision about whether a child should be adopted, but ministers believe too many local authorities currently delay looking for a permanent family for a child until a court order has been received.
As part of the plans, the government will fund the charity Coram to become a National Centre of Excellence in Early Permanence. The organisation will work with local authorities that already make use of similar practices, including East Sussex, Hampshire and Cambridgeshire.
Prime minister David Cameron today said it is “shocking that we have a system where 50% of one-month-old babies who come to the care system go on to be adopted but wait 15 months to be placed in a permanent, loving home”.
“That’s why today I’m changing the law and calling for urgent action – both from local authorities and from potential adopters – to get the system moving. These new plans will see babies placed with approved adopters who will foster first, and help provide a stable home at a much earlier stage in a child’s life,” he said.
Martin Narey, the government’s adoption adviser, said: “I have seen ‘Fostering for Adoption’ operate successfully in East Sussex, and I know from my extensive contact with adopters the importance they put on establishing a permanent bond with their child as soon as possible.
Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of Adoption UK, added: “Behind all this, of course, lies the involvement of the judges, courts and the family justice system, who will need to support the practical and legal application of such a policy. In essence, this new initiative can only truly work if all the details are smoothed out and proper support is put in place for adopters.”
Today’s announcement follows a range of controversial measures designed to speed up the adoption process, including scorecards to measure local authority performance.
Inform guide: Concurrent planning in adoption cases